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State champion at last: Bancroft becomes Fike’s first state champion wrestler

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GREENSBORO — In its 55th year of having a wrestling program, Fike High finally has a state champion.

Junior Aaron Bancroft set a school precedent Saturday as he won the 160-pound title in the 3-A classification at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum. As he has done for most of the season, Bancroft made short work of his opponent, Gastonia Forestview senior Kameron Miller, taking a 5-0 lead after the first period on his way to an 11-0 major decision. For Bancroft, it was his 52nd victory against one loss, including four at the state tournament. His only defeat was 7-5 decision against Jaden Bullock of Chesapeake Oscar Smith High in the WRAL Invitational in December. Bullock went on to win the Virginia High School League 6-A championship at 160 pounds.

Aside from that blip, Bancroft, the two-time East Regional champion, was simply unstoppable this season. He recorded 31 pins, four technical falls (scoring 15 points more than opponent) and just six forfeit wins. Of his six victories by simple decision, three came against eventual NCHSAA runners-up.

Bancroft was not available for comment.

In Greensboro, Bancroft delivered a 16-1 technical fall to Terrell Dixon in the first round before pinning Eden Morehead’s Tyler Horton in the second round. He secured his spot in the final with a 9-1 major decision over Weddington’s Denton Dicarlo to earn a spot in the finals.

Bancroft expressed surprise Friday that he would not be facing Elijah Martin of Cameron Union Pines in the final as Miller, the West champion, pulled out a 3-2 victory over Martin, the Mideast champ with 61 wins coming into the semifinals. Martin would go on to finish third shortly before Bancroft handed Miller just his second loss in 52 matches.

“I feel super excited for Aaron. He’s put in so much hard work and it’s paid off for him,” said Fike head coach Bradley Watson. “He had a pretty dominant run. I knew he could do it but we just had to work on his mental side.”

Some of that was left to Bancroft’s father, George, the Golden Demons assistant coach whose coaching career in Wilson goes back to the early 1970s when he was the Charles L. Coon Junior High coach. George Bancroft has had a hand in five of the previous six state championships won by Wilson wrestlers but this one was obviously special.

“It’s one of the milestones of my career,” George Bancroft said. “That was a dream of mine several years ago. I thought somehow if I could go to Fike High School and help them have a state champion, that would be great.”

While Aaron Bancroft was the last Demon to wrestle Saturday, teammate Joseph Speight finished sixth in the 182-pound division, placing in his one and only appearance in the state tournament. Speight, like Bancroft, began his career under the late Mike Wickham, the Demons coach who died of cancer on Jan. 1, 2018.

“He never had a state champion and he would have been excited because of Aaron but he would have been more excited because Joseph placed in the state,” George Bancroft said of Wickham.

Speight needed a 3-2 tiebreaker win over Bryan Aragao of North Brunswick in the consolation quarterfinals. However, he then lost to East Regional champion Micah Dixon 7-4 in the consolation semifinals, a week after losing 4-1 to Dixon in the regional semifinals. Speight was pinned by North Henderson’s Triston Norris in the fifth-place match as he concluded his season with a career-best 50-8 record.

“He came off with a smile on his face and put a smile in my heart. He’s a special kid,” Watson said of Speight.

The third Fike wrestler in action Saturday, junior Jahmez Settles, lost a 7-6 decision to Southern Guilford’s Dylan Muir in the 106-pound consolation semifinals, one win shy of placing. Settles, who missed the first month of the season, finished 23-5.

C.B. Aycock junior Tyler Hughes rebounded from a semifinals loss in the 152-pound bracket to emerge as the third-place finisher. Hughes, the East champion, posted an 8-3 win over River Carroll of Swansboro in the consolation semifinals then pinned Union Pines’ Jonathan Ross in 4 minutes, 29 seconds in the consolation final.

Hughes finished the season 56-4 and is 105-17 in two seasons after missing his sophomore campaign due to injury.

With three other Golden Falcons — sophomores Omar Tucker and Turner Bass and junior Canon Barrett — reaching the state tournament, CBA head coach Brian Doyle is excited about the future.

“We will now have four state qualifiers in the room,” Doyle said. “We only lose two seniors and have eight projected coming in from our youth program. Of those eight, three or four of them will probably be day 1 starters. Bottom line is our program’s future is looking strong.  I can see us being really strong in eight or nine of the 14 weight classes and that’s probably a low estimate. We will see.”

For Fike, Bancroft will be back, along with state qualifiers sophomore Vincent Page and Settles as well as promising sophomore Jayleen Bullock, giving the Demons reason to believe it won’t be 55 years before another state champion from Fike is crowned.

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